The head of two Twin Cities airports is on paid leave after he was accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the city of South St. Paul, his previous employer when he managed that city’s airport for more than 20 years.
Glenn C. Burke, 54, of Inver Grove Heights was charged on Tuesday in Dakota County District Court with seven counts of theft by swindle during his time as manager of South St. Paul Municipal Airport.
He stole about $108,769 between 2009 and 2015, the charges say, mostly by depositing checks made out to the city or the airport into an unauthorized bank account, and later withdrawing the money for his personal use.
Burke left South St. Paul last year when the Metropolitan Airports Commission hired him as manager of the Anoka County-Blaine Airport and Crystal Airport, two of the MAC’s smaller “reliever” airports. Burke is on paid administrative leave, and the MAC is reviewing his file, spokesman Patrick Hogan said.
The South St. Paul airport, also known as Fleming Field, is owned by the city, not the MAC. South St. Paul City Administrator Stephen King said the accusations came as a shock because of Burke’s professional track record. He had been the airport’s manager since 1994.
“We really had no indication at all that anything was going on,” King said.
According to the charges, the scheme came to light in April after the city’s accounting department received an overdraft notice for a Bremer Bank account. A city employee contacted the South St. Paul police, who obtained the account’s records with a warrant and found it had been opened by Burke in 2006 in the name of the SSP Airport Fuel Co. The city said the airport has no such division.
Deposits made to the account, according to the complaint, came from checks to the city of South St. Paul or the South St. Paul airport for services ranging from fuel to hangar rental. The investigation found that from 2009 to 2012, Burke stole more than $38,650 from the city by diverting payments to his personal account. From 2012 to 2015, he continued to divert more than $60,000 into the account.
Bremer Bank no longer has transaction records for the account before 2009.
Burke withdrew about $111,529 from the account from May 2009 until March 2016, the charges say. Investigators found that $70,000 was paid to GM Card Services for a personal credit card account for Burke. The city of South St. Paul does not use GM Card Services for its account, according to the complaint.
Investigators also found that multiple credits to the airport had been placed on Burke’s personal credit card. Burke also withdrew money from the account through checks made out to himself and his family.
Officers confronted Burke on June 15. During the conversation, Burke told officers that he had opened the account to start a fuel tank business at the airport to fix fuel tanks. In the complaint, officers noted that Burke’s demeanor changed during their conversation and he became nervous when confronted with the investigation against him.
Burke turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday. His initial court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday in Hastings.
In South St. Paul, city officials say they’ve already put measures in place to prevent similar incidents of theft. During Burke’s term as head of the airport, King said, the airport manager worked in relative isolation.
“That obviously had to change,” he said. “We have done things to integrate the financial structures together, so we are better aware of what is going on.”